Ryan and I are flying out to Portland to go backpacking over spring break. To make sure we don’t end up subsisting merely on roots and dirt we need to bring a camp stove along. The stove consists of two parts: the stove and the white gas fuel bottle. Aware of the serious security concerns these items could raise at the airport, we made phone calls to find out how in the hell we could bring the gift of Prometheus to the west coast.
We considered mailing the fuel bottle out to a friend in Oregon and picking it up after we arrive. The post office would not let us send the bottle even if it was empty, as it would still have gasoline residue and pose a serious threat to teenage postal workers that may be involved in gas-huffing rackets. We called Northwest, and it took them some time to figure out that we weren’t asking if we could smuggle explosives onto a plane, but were making a genuine request for policy information. It also took them a few minutes to figure out what their policy on fuel bottles really was. I found their delay in response curious, as I would assume that amongst all this heightened security that questions of personal freedom, such as our right to transport cooking materials by plane, would have already been answered. I got the feeling they were making it up on the spot.
As expected, Northwest would not let us check the empty bottle in with our luggage, as anything that has been associated with gas will trip the sensors and summon the FBI. What’s more, they said we wouldn’t even be able to bring the stove itself, as it has been used with gas in the past. I assume that under this logic gas station uniforms are also rightly banned from airplanes.
Finally we contacted UPS. Their first concern was how much the stove and bottle would weigh. We can’t mail the bottle and we’ll need to buy a new one out in Oregon, but they said that we could send the stove so long as we pledged it would not explode. Being a profit-oriented enterprise, UPS finds the risk in serving us acceptable.